Minimally Invasive Spine Fusion – Transforming Bodies and Lives
Dr. Sanjay Ghosh—a Castle Connolly Top Doctor with a thriving San Diego practice—loves to tell the story of a recent patient who went from devastating back pain to delightful recovery in a matter of months thanks to minimally invasive spine surgery.
“As a surgeon, your ultimate goal is to help your patients,” Dr. Ghosh explains. “You want to understand what’s causing their pain, develop a plan to relieve the pain, and then execute against that plan to deliver the desired results.”
In this particular case, the patient was experiencing severe pain in his lower back. He had dealt with the pain for many years, but it got to the point where the discomfort was never ending. “He came to me saying he had become ‘an angry old man’,” Dr. Ghosh explains. “He wanted to travel with his wife, but the pain was too unbearable. Playing golf was a passion, but that was now out of the question. He wasn’t living the dream life he had envisioned.”
The story, unfortunately, is all too familiar for a generation that is living longer and longer lives. Eventually, for many, there will be pain. Thankfully, though, medical advances are helping restore these broken bodies.
Dr. Ghosh says one of the biggest advances in solving back pain is minimally invasive spinal fusion. “It’s revolutionary,” he asserts.
“Four hours after the surgery, the patient was walking with very little pain,” Dr. Ghosh explains. “Three months later, he was pain free and preparing to live the life he and his wife envisioned.”
To better understand what makes it revolutionary, Dr. Ghosh draws a comparison to “open” or “conventional” spine surgery. In this approach, the surgeon relies on a large incision—typically about six inches long—to access the spine and the muscles that need to be separated from the spine. While this approach is still used at times, many patients are experiencing excellent results with minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery.
As its name implies, one of the biggest differences compared to open spine surgery is the size of the incisions. According to Dr. Ghosh, the minimally invasive technique uses two small incisions—approximately two inches in length—to access the spine. A surgical microscope is inserted through these access points to provide a clear view of the surgical area. Small surgical tools, as well as the stabilizing rods and screws, are also brought to the spine through these small channels.
Although the incisions are small, there are big advantages. Patients who select minimally invasive spine surgery spend less time in surgery, have less pain after surgery, reduced scarring, quicker recovery, and less post-operative rehabilitation.
Still, it requires a skilled surgeon to achieve optimal results. Dr. Ghosh advises patients who are considering surgery to relieve their back pain to seek out a board-certified surgeon who has extensive experience in the procedure. Board certification is a solid indicator that the surgeon has the education, experience, and skill-set to perform the surgery safely and successfully.
As Dr. Ghosh finishes telling the story, he smiles talking about the transformation. “Four hours after the surgery, the patient was walking with very little pain,” Dr. Ghosh explains. “Three months later, he was pain free and preparing to live the life he and his wife envisioned. He told me they were going to take a celebration trip and then showed me a video of himself walking down the stairs in his home, moving around pain free as he brought his suitcase to the car.”
“These are the moments you cherish as a surgeon,” Dr. Ghosh says.